Platelets are cell-like bodies that represent an essential component of circulating blood. The role of platelets in blood clotting has long been understood. Since platelets, like red blood cells do not have nuclei and the DNA that is essential for life, it was assumed that blood-clotting was the only role for platelets.
In recent years, platelets have been shown to possess diverse functions. They have been found to release growth factors and other factors that help in the repair of damaged tissues. In addition, they help initiate the inflammatory response, alert immune cells and they have even been implicated in the attack of invading microbes in the midst of a bacterial infection. They also function as carriers, delivering serotonin to the liver which aids in the regeneration of the liver following a traumatic injury. Platelets also participate in the development of the circulatory system in newborns.
It is interesting to note that Doctor Weyrich and his colleagues from the Human Biology and Genetics Program at the University of Utah have demonstrated that platelets reproduce in spite of the fact that they lack a cell nucleus. They send out a strand with one or more bead-like bulges that eventually separate producing new platelets.
This new understanding of how platelets function will ultimately open the door to new kinds of therapies and treatment for diseases in which they are apparently implicated.